Responding to climate change means all hands on deck – this is not a drill. Our systems and infrastructure, our businesses and economy, the safety and stability of our communities depend on boldly and directly addressing climate change. But beyond the major climate impacts, risks and threats that must be taken with utmost seriousness, there are tremendous opportunities as well.
Cities and nations around the world have documented significant decoupling of emissions from GDP, job and population growth. These cities and nations increasingly recognise that decreasing emissions doesn’t mean sacrificing productivity or wage growth – and may even provide competitive economic advantage.
There are well-documented air quality and health costs associated with the burning of fossil fuels and from poor quality (e.g., poorly insulated or inefficient) built environments, causing preventable disease. A low emissions transition delivers real benefits and cost avoidance around human health, air quality, and workplace productivity. A low emissions transition is also likely to help reduce the burden on our most vulnerable. For instance, a just transition addresses energy insecurity and potential energy cost increases, which is especially important since the poorer among us spend a disproportional percentage of their incomes on energy. A more climate-resilient city is more socially and economically resilient, too, which means we’re all looking out for each other and can better withstand other shocks and stresses that might not be directly related to climate change.
So with all these benefits, what’s Auckland Council’s role in transforming Auckland into a resilient and zero carbon society?
While it requires all sectors and all of us to act, Auckland Council plays a key leadership role. To provide a clear signal to all sectors and government and to motivate progress, Auckland embedded an Auckland-wide emissions target of 40 per cent of 1990-level emissions by 2040 in the Auckland Plan and set out a corresponding 10-year action plan and 30-year pathway through the Energy Resilience and Low Carbon Auckland Action Plan 2014.
Beyond its citywide targets, Auckland has signalled its commitment to take action and collaborate with government. This includes joining the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, signing the Paris Pledge for Action in support of the objectives in the Paris Agreement, and joining other New Zealand cities to sign the Local Government Leaders Climate Change Declaration calling for an ambitious transition plan toward a low emissions and resilient New Zealand.
Pledges and targets, fine. But what does this mean on the ground? Climate action lines up perfectly with creating a more successful city. Opportunities to do so include:
· Providing transport choice, which is why we’re seeing historic investment in cycling and walking, a new public transport system and construction of the City Rail Link
· Creating great places, which is why we’ve designed shared streets, world-class urban spaces like Wynyard Quarter, and are starting to size up transformation across the city through Panuku Development Auckland’s urban regeneration projects
· Harnessing clean energy and using it more efficiently, which is why Council is putting on rooftop solar PV systems and LED streetlights, designing more efficient buildings, and reducing overall energy use
· Prioritising access to green space, which is why we’re designing quality green infrastructure like Te Auaunga/Oakley Creek, developing an urban forest strategy, and continuing to provide a suite of parks and open space options
· Reducing waste and designing a more circular economy, which is why we’ve consolidated seven waste systems into one, spun off successful Community Recycling Centres, and are pushing an Auckland-wide target of zero waste by 2040
· Working to empower and collaborate with communities directly, which is why we’ve launched Live Lightly (read more on another blog post on this site that tells this great story)
Auckland is committed to action on climate change, the transformation that’s required and the collaboration needed to deliver the resulting economic, social and environmental benefits to all Aucklanders. We need you, your ideas, your enthusiasm and your talent.
John Mauro is Chief Sustainability Officer for Auckland Council